Hearty Rustic Bread

Serve this hearty, chewy bread with steamy bowls of homemade soup for a meal that will warm you up and fill you up!

Hearty Rustic Bread

2/3 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1 ounce fresh active yeast
5 cups flour
Coarse sea salt

In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat 1 cup water, milk and sugar until just warm (90 degrees F.). Remove from heat and stir in yeast until dissolved. In a large bowl, combine flour and 1 1/2 tablespoons course sea salt.  Pour in yeast mixture and mix with hands until a soft dough forms.  (If dough is dry, add more water.  If dough is sticky, add more flour.) On a lightly floured surface, knead dough for about 5 minutes.  Place dough in a large lightly floured bowl, cover with a clean towel, and let rise in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in size, 50 to 60 minutes. (The oven is a good place to rise dough.)

On a clean surface, punch down dough and form into a 10 by 7 inch rectangle about 2 inches thick.  Place loaf  on a parchment-lined baking sheet, cover with a towel and let rise again in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, 50 to 60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Using your finger, press indentations into the top of the loaf.  Drizzle surface with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon coarse seat salt.  You can sprinkle with herbs if you like, such as rosemary or basil.  Bake until loaf is golden and sounds hollow when tapped, about 30 minutes.  Transfer loaf to a wire rack and let cool.  Slice to serve.

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